July 12, 2024

Styles Of Dance

Dance Styles Unite in Harmony

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Modern Masters: explosive style

3 min read

Returning to London for the first time since 2019, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has scheduled four different programmes at Sadler’s Wells which include Ailey’s signature work, Revelations, as a finale on three of them. The company is always a date (or dates) for the diary: unmissable, scintillating, alluring.

Constance Stamatiou in Ronald K Brown’s Dancing Spirit

© Paul Kolnik

Ailey’s influence remains ever-present, not just in his own works but in the creations of contemporary choreographers who currently work with the company, not least with Artistic Director Robert Battle.

The second programme, Modern Masters, was meant to have opened with Twyla Tharp’s Roy’s Joy’s but illness meant that the curtain went up on Ronald K Brown’s Dancing Spirit, his 2009 version now revised and revitalised this year. Set to music by Wynton Marsalis, Duke Ellington, Radiohead and War, the melding of the different musical components was as seamless as Brown’s gently simmering choreography. Beautifully dressed in various shades blue (designs by Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya), the movement was simple, pure at the start, as one by one, the nine dancers slink onto the stage on a diagonal, each replacing the former when the number exceeded three.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ronald K Brown’s Dancing Spirit

© Paul Kolnik

What was most engaging about Dancing Spirit was the slow burn. It began with subtle hints of what was to come and built, in a gloriously enticing way, until the jazzy swaying of hyper-mobile hips and flexible backs became a stage full of rippling energy, guaranteed to captivate each and every spectator. The climax included a solo for Constance Stamatiou (the role originally created for Judith Jamison, AAADT’s Artistic Director Emeritus) that was as riveting as it was liberating. Stamatiou is an outstanding dancer and presence on stage, though equally matched in both dance quality and charisma, by Yannick Lebrun. It’s unlikely that anyone could consistently divert their eyes away from Lebrun for more than a swift second, his mellifluous movement style combined with his magnetism: a recipe for instant and lasting appeal.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Robert Battle’s For Four

© Christopher Duggan

The absence of Roy’s Joys meant a repetition of the previous night’s For Four and Unfold, both by Battle. As an aside, this suggests that there is only one available cast for the former, but perhaps it is that it would put too much pressure on dancers already cast in other pieces. Both Battle’s works are brief episodes and, for me at least, provoked a desire to see more. With music by Marsalis again, For Four (2021), is an exercise in high velocity jazz dance that was infectiously executed by its cast of Renaldo Maurice, Deirdre Rogan, Solomon Dumas and Khalia Campbell – a dream team.

Ashley Mayeux and Jeroboam Bozeman in Robert Battle’s Unfold

© Christopher Duggan

Unfold (2007) was a magnificent juxtaposition – a languorous duet to the song “Depuis le jour” from Charpentier’s Louise, recorded by Leontyne Price. Intensely (melo)dramatic, Ashley Mayeux and Jeroboam Bozeman were supremely convincing as a couple going through the motions of what appeared to be a deeply affecting relationship. There was a moment when Mayeux lay twisted on the floor, her legs jerked up and down in an extraordinary feat of separation between her torso and limbs. The choreography was intriguing and arguably difficult to sustain, yet these two delivered the series of extreme movements with dreamy synchronicity.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey’s Revelations

© Tony Powell

Ailey’s Revelations, created in 1960, doesn’t ever lose its shine; the gospel songs never stop resonating. While some people may question the reasons why the company continues to perform this work with such regularity, watching it for the umpteenth time merely confirms that its appeal lies in the sincerity of the performers and the slow, building crescendo that culminates in Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham. Sinnerman (at this performance: Solomon Dumas, Kanji Segawa and Christopher R. Wilson) remains one to look forward to and didn’t disappoint. Vernand J Gilmour was superb in I Wanna Be Ready. Singling dancers out for praise feels like a bit of a guilty pleasure because the joy of the dance emanates from every one of the cast. AAADT is still, without a doubt, one of the greatest dance companies in the world. 



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